Your guide to climate change conversations and how to get more people to support the climate action movement?
By Megha Jha
Climate change is a growing problem. Fortunately, one that comes with effective solutions. We admit it, caring about the climate is not an easy job. The journey can feel quite lonely and isolating, especially when the people we love don’t share our passion for it.
It is often quite frustrating to watch people go about their lives carelessly when we are so riddled with anxiety that we cannot even get out of our beds on some mornings. Sounds familiar? But, the question that arises is that if the immense amount of information and scientific research available out there doesn’t convince people, what will?
We are here to tell you that you can and you will. Think about your own journey of becoming a climate warrior. How much of it was it based on reading vs actively listening to people’s opinions and engaging in discussions? The later was definitely a practical learning curve wasn’t it?
So now that you are on a path to climate action, it is time to encourage others around you to join the movement. We have highlighted a few things you should keep in mind while having climate change conversations. (Plus, a few things to avoid)
Context is King
Repeat after me: context matters. Climate change is an umbrella term that houses a lot of subdomains under it. Launching straight into this broad spectrum can be confusing and overwhelming for people. Instead, try to contextualise and personalize your message when you speak to people.
For example, instead of talking about Greta Thunberg’s viral speech, try to bring up the issues that are affecting people living in your city, connect them to climate change and propose practical solutions. Remember, climate change means different things in terms of different countries across the globe. Familiarise yourself with the most pressing issues in your country, state or community before you speak to people. This helps them connect with the topic and stays with them long after your conversation.
Maybe bring up any recent news or change in temperature levels. If you are talking to a younger audience, trending social media conversations can always help. Contextualise based on geography and demographics. 😉
Active Listening, Conscious Talking
Don’t you just hate it when someone overshadows you and orders you around? So does everyone else. We understand the depth and urgency of your knowledge may not appeal to everyone. Eventually, people will zone you out or leave the conversation without any takeaways.
Instead, apply the 40-60 rule to your climate conversations. 40% talking, 60% listening. Try to ask open-ended questions and patiently listen to what the other person has to say while adding a few inputs every now and then. You’ll be amazed by the results of this activity.
Not only will you get through to people but, you’ll also be able to address their pain points and contextualise your knowledge for their understanding. And let’s face it, everyone loves a good listener.
Radiate Positive Energy
Climate anxiety is a real thing and all of us have faced it at some point or the other. We know that you’re worried and angry. We also know the urgency of the matter. However, the moment you start emitting these emotions towards the other person, they will shut down. You will be unable to get through to them from that point onwards.
Instead, try to maintain a positive outlook and speak to people as calmly as possible. People may invalidate your concerns or dismiss them but make sure that you validate their point of view whilst simultaneously making climate change more relatable to them.
Remember, people may not remember what you say to them but they will always remember how you make them feel. Do your best to leave them feeling empowered about tackling climate change.
Facts over Fiction
Climate warriors across the globe are deeply connected to the cause and in most cases, on an emotional level. It is only natural to feel this way about your passions. However, when you are trying to talk to other people about climate change, try to disconnect your emotions from the conversation. It is good to include personal anecdotes but steer clear of overtly fearful or optimistic emotions.
Focus on the facts at hand and give them concrete numbers and statistics. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and emotional and ensure that you are conveying a structured and practical argument to the other person.
Plus, isn’t the fact that climate deniers always using emotions to steer people away from climate conversation really upsetting? So why use their tactic. When initiating climate change conversations, focus on facts and leave the other person wanting to research more.
Any social phenomenon is different for different cultures. This holds true for climate change as well. The effects, consequences and actions of climate change are very different for each culture. Culture is one of the primal instincts that binds a society together. People across the world feel more passionate about matters pertaining to culture than anything else.
For example, in the context of India, mothers belonging to middle-class families have been practising sustainability and maintaining a circular economy through habits that were built out of the need to save money. If you’re talking to young Indians, you’re more likely to get through to them when you customize your conversation around this cultural trend. This will help people relate to your conversation and join the dots based on their experiences and understanding.
At the end of the conversation, you’ll leave them far more informed than you would have previously anticipated. However, please note that there are several topics within each culture that are sensitive in nature. It is best to steer away from introducing a cultural context in such matters and sticking to facts instead.
It is ok if you are not too familiar with the cultural background of the person you are talking to. In such situations, remember active listening helps and then you can always go back to research more.
Know when to Pause
We believe that conversations and small changes can indeed change the world. However, sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will not be able to communicate with certain people. Don’t panic or feel hurt and overwhelmed. This is simply human tendency and there’s not much that you can do in this situation.
Instead, learn to identify that point in any climate change conversation beyond which, you will not make any progress. When your conversation has reached this level of saturation, politely agree to disagree and part your ways. After all, there is only so much that one can do.
Climate change conversations can be fun and we definitely need to do them more often. We hope this guide helped you think of some ice breakers on how to initiate the conversation and get it going. Remember not to overburden yourself though. Your health matters as much as the health of the planet.
Megha is a creative strategist and climate warrior. She is a Changemaker at WeGotThis Bootcamp and Incubator, Intern at UN Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Program and soon-to-be Leader at Climate Reality Corps. Her sustainability journey started with Lauren Singer’s video on how she fit a year’s worth of trash in a mason jar back in 2017. Ever since then, she has been making conscious efforts towards educating herself and building a sustainable lifestyle. Her passion project, The Sustainability Series is a digital brand and community dedicated to climate change that aims to mobilize young Indians for change.